DHARAMSHALA, September 21: The Swiss foreign ministry has said that it will “very carefully” observe the situation in Tibet while expressing concern over the growing instances of self-immolations in the region.
Swiss Federal Councillor Didier Burhhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, told the parliament that the Swiss Federal Council is “concerned about the situation in Tibetan regions in China, notably about the increasing numbers of persons who are self-immolating.”
The foreign minister was responding on September 17 to issues raised by two Swiss parliamentarians on the “alarming situation” in Tibet during the question hour in the parliament.
Burhhalter said Switzerland has been continuously discussing “a set of problems” with the Chinese authorities, through bilateral consultations on human rights of which, the minister said, the rights of minorities and the freedom of religion are “thematic priorities.”
“The issue of human rights is being discussed during bilateral meetings on a ministerial level as well, as done during the political consultations led by the State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs few weeks ago in July 2012,” the minister said.
Burhhalter added that in the last 12 months, representatives of the Swiss Embassy in China visited regions in Tibet to have a “better comprehension of the circumstances.”
“The Federal Council is paying great attention to the ongoing developments.”
Responding to the queries raised by MP Maya Graf, Green Party, First Vice President of the Parliament and MP Martin Naef from the Social-Democratic Party, both members of the Swiss Parliamentary Group on Tibet, the foreign minister assured that the Swiss government will be vigilant of the developments in the region.
“Furthermore the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs will observe the situation very carefully through the Swiss Embassy in Beijing,” Burhhalter said.
Following the minister’s response, the Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association, in a release, urged the Swiss government to “go a step further and effectively express its concern towards the Chinese government.”
Switzerland recently raised concerns over the critical situation inside Tibet at the ongoing 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council from September 10-28 in Geneva.